Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Uri Attack and Pakistani Isolation

As India faces one terrorist attack after another, patience is running thin in the country. Post attack on Uri army base and death of soldiers, there is mounting pressure on government to act. Question is what can India do? Among many potential options, one that has gained some traction is to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. After address of Pakistani Prime Minister and Indian External Affairs Minister to UNGA, two schools of thoughts have emerged. Some believe Pakistan is totally isolated and stands exposed. Others think that India has actually achieved nothing. Pakistan is happy, healthy and going on her business merrily. It will never be easy to isolate Pakistan. As usual the truth, I think, lies somewhere in the middle. 

Agreed, that it is difficult to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. Even mighty US with all its muscle and money, could only do so much against North Korea, Iran and Cuba. US could not even persuade its non NATO ally, Pakistan, to do its bidding. In this scenario, to get unstinted support, India has to take sides and join military alliances lead by US or China and Russia. India may have leaned towards US, but we are not exactly an US ally.  At the same time, we may have antagonised Russia by moving away from them. We shout from rooftop that we have independent foreign policy. We claim we are nonaligned. Yet, we expect other countries to support us when we are in trouble. This is pure wishful thinking. We get lip service  and shall keep getting it in future. If we wish to be independent, then we have to do things on our own. We must develop our own clout and muscle. If we wish someone else to our dirty job, then we have to do their bidding, dirty our hand and support our perceived friends in good times and and in bad times. 

Now coming to second point, that we did not get much support from the world on the issue of terrorism.  Every country in the world works on its national interest. No one wants to take a side in fight between two countries. The fact that no country spoke in favour of Pakistan may be an indicator of support to Indian school of though. It is also noteworthy than Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Bhutan have supported Indian position. All three countries have decided not to attend SAARC meeting to be held in Pakistan. Now look at who decided to work with Paksitan. They are China, Russia, Iran and Turkey. China, Russia and Turkey are trying to create a formation that opposes US. Iran till recently was reeling under US sanction. China is an ally of Pakistan. China has invested in economic corridor through Pakistan to reach Arabian sea. iran is thinking of its national interest on joining China Pakistan corridor. Till recently, Iran was reeling under US sanction. India voted against Iran in UN. Now to think that Iran will leave her national interest for India and not engage in business with Pakistan is again wishful thinking. By the way, India and Iran are working on Chabahar port in Afghanistan. It is true, Russia did military exercise with Pakistan. At the same time, Russia also exercised with India in Vladivostok. National interest and diplomacy changes with time. One has to keep working at strategic objectives. There is no black and white answer. Besides a thousand mile journey starts with first step.

Cuckold, A Beautiful Novel By Kiran Nagarkar

I was reading a novel, Cuckold, by Kiran Nagarkar. Cuckold was  second novel written by Kiran Nagarkar, that I read. First one was Gods Little Soldier. Most Kiran Nagarkar novels are really lengthy, with extremely fluid and lucid storyline. Once you start reading, it is difficult to keep the book aside.

Cuckold is a novel based on real people and actual historical events. Yet, Cuckold is not a narration of history. Rather, it is an effort to describe human relationship at the given time in history. Story is around the time when Lodhi sultanate in Delhi is losing its grip and Mughal is trying to enter India.

Central character of Cuckold is a Rajput crown prince or as addressed in the novel maharaj kumar. In the whole novel, actual name of maharaj kumar was never revealed. I guess it is Raja Bhoj. Maharaj kumar was the eldest son of Maharana Sangram Singh, or Rana Sanga. Maharaj Kumar belonged to Sishodiya rajput lineage that worshipped sun and had ruled mewar with Chittor as capital. Rani Padmini and Mahrana Pratap also belonged to same lineage, albeit at different points in time. 

As a ruler, Maharaj Kumar has been potrayed to be a good ruler. He is just with his decisions. He had shown ability to distinguish personal from professional. He thought about improving lives of his subjects by investing his time, fund and energy towards creation of drainage system in Chittor. 

As a military general, Maharaj Kumar had several victories under his belt. Namely battle of Idar, battle of Malwa.  Unlike contemporary Rajput leadership that believed in valor of losing life in a face to face battle, Maharaj Kumar believed in value of life of every soldier under him. He preferred to work with small mobile force, believed in surprise unexpected attack, gave importance to strategic retreats with minimal loss of life, tried to convince Maharana to invest in upcoming technologies of war like cannons and matchlocks. 

Cuckold means a person whose wife cheats on him. In his personal life, Maharaj Kumar was married to princess of Merta. Princess became famous as Mira bai, a devotee of lord Krishna. Maharaj Kumar did not have a successful marriage because Merta-princess was already betrothed to lord Krishna. His second marriage to princess of Malwa was not successful because, prince could not accept his bride. Malwa-princess eventually cheats on Maharaj Kumar with his step brother, Kumar Vikramaditya.

In the palace intrigue, Vikramaditya and his mother were always plotting against maharaj kumar. Problems compounded because maharaj kumar did not have a successful marriage that lead to a son, an anathema in Rajput royal families. Another intrigue being Maharana Sanga unwilling to take action on his incompetent son.  

Rana Sanga and crown prince were defeated by Babur in the battle of Khanwa, a historical fact. Babur had better equipment and strategy. Rana had bigger army but poor equipment. In the end Rana was poisoned by his son, Prince Vikramaditya. Nothing is known what happened to crown prince. In the novel he vanished, history states he might have died. A beautiful novel. A strong character, a good ruler, a visionary meeting a sad end due to palace intrigue.

History says, Prince Vikramaditya ascended the throne of Chittor after Maharana Sanga. He was a poor ruler. Eventually, after five years, he was asked to step down by council of ministers in charge for misdemeanor.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Uri Attack, How Should India React

India has faced repeated attack by terrorists on its military installations and civilian population. In 2016 alone, not counting numerous small encounters, two major attacks have happened in airforce base at Pathankot and Army base at Uri. Apart from  casualty and loss of human lives, attacks unless responded to brings a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and emasculation among armed forces as well as among general population. 

Post every terror attack on India, a clamour for retribution against Pakistan emerges. Question is what can India do? What are our options? 

Most people are tired of diplomatese.  To get unequivocal world support, India has to ally with a power group or develop economic muscle.  When China flexes its economic muscle, world listens.  India is a defensive military power. Our economy is growing, yet we are a smaller economy compared to China, leave aside US. Despite so much noise about isolation of Pakistan post Uri attack, Russia is undertaking military exercise with Pakistani army.

 There are several potential military options that India can exercise, which may included :

  • surgical strike inside Pakistan, 
  • destroying terrorist camps,
  • covert operation to eliminate select targets,
  • full fledged war
None of the above, however, are tenable. Potential problems may include:
  • Enemy is likely to strike back;
  • Potential of nuclear escalation;
  • Governments development agenda likely go for a toss;
  • India may lose goodwill around world community, and pressure is likely to develop on India to pull back;
Many experts have argued that India cannot be subjected to nuclear blackmail. After taking so much beating, there is time when India must strike back. Still, in a nation of 1.2 billion people, one has to carefully consider pros and con of a military response, that too against a nuclear armed neighbour.

The following few things, however, India must do :

  • Fortify her borders and her defence installations against any sneak attack by suicidal fidayeen.  
  • India must employ technology to prevent infiltration inside the base and if possible border. Use drone, camera, laser and robot as first line of defence. Any breaking of circuit, and suspicious image should be greeted by armed escort. This way we may be able to minimise human casualty. 
  • Army bases should also make it mandatory, for anybody entering buffer zone, declare themselves or be at risk of being shot. Unless strict, disciplined and SOP driven action is taken, human casualty cannot be minimised. It must be remembered that during Mumbai attack, terrorists sailed all the way upto Mumbai without any challenge. Mumbai is the headquarter of western naval command. It seems we have not learnt much since Mumbai. Because in Pathankot and Uri bases, breach of security happened.
Bolstering internal security is not sexy and attractive. It is, however, essential. Only a healthy body can stave attack from external organisms. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rio Paralympic Games, Hats Off to Medallists

India participated in Paralympic games in Rio De Janiero from 8 to 16 Sep, 2016. India had sent a team of 19 para athletes, that constituted 16 men and 3 women. India won four medals. Two gold medals in Javelin throw and High Jump, by Devendra Jhajharia and Mariyappan Thangavelu. Deepa Malik won a silver in women's shotput, a first for any Indian women. Varun Bhati won a bronze in High Jump.

Devendra Jhajharia and Deepa Malik are Arjuna awardees.  Devendra Jahjharia is employed by Indian Railways. Financial lot of Mariyappan Thangavelu has improved post high jump medal. Tamil Nadu government has awarded him 2 crore rupees. Sports ministry has declared 75 lac cash for gold medal winners. I am sure Devendra Jhajharia, Deepa Malik and Varun Bhati will also get their share of sports ministry award. 

I have not heard or read, Rajasthan and Haryana governments announcing cash prize for their champions. May be they will. I have not heard any sponsor coming forward and showering paralympic champions with awards of cash and kind. If such was the case, given track record of winning medals in paralympics, Devendra Jhajharia should have been a wealthy person. Even if that has happened, it has not come in public domain. 

Some may argue, parlympic is not at the same level as olympic games. It must be remembered that timing of 1500 meter race in paralympic games was faster than that of Olympic games. Oscar Pistorius had competed in both olympic and paralympic games. All said and done, paralympians are competing against their compatriots with similar disability. 

It takes a lot to overcome physical disability and lead a regular life, let alone compete in sports. Our hats must be off, and heads must bend at achievements of our paralympians. These men and women have achieved what many able bodied athletes could not. In a further demonstration of his spirit, Mariappan Thangavelu has promised to donate 30 lac from his prize money to his school. God bless!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Zakir Naik, Islam and Democracy

Dr. Zakir Naik, is an Islamic preacher who advocates salafist version of Islam. Zakir Naik is a medical doctor. He has founded Islamic Research Foundation and runs a TV channel, called Peace TV. Dr. Naik is an authority on comparative religion, who advocates surpremacy of Allah. He considers Islam to be only true faith. Allah is the all powerful and merciful. In his congregations he challenges non believers to debate. His only condition being, nonbeliever has to convert to Islam if he loses debate. In real life Dr. Naik is a very soft spoken person. He never uses violence or abusive language.

I met a muslim gentleman on a summer morning. I, along with a few others, was waiting in a shade outside an examination centre. My daughter was writing her competitive examination, one of many students appearing in class XII board write. A middle aged man showed up. From his dress and his beard it looked like he was a practicing muslim. He sat amongst us. He was easy going, talkative and friendly. He was teaching in Jamia Milia Islamia school. His daughter was also writing competitive test. As we chatted along, discussion shifted to religion. The muslim gentleman said, consider me to be your excrement, but tell me how can you call monkey or an elephant a god? Can your god protect you? If I slap you, will your god come and kill me. Many of us mostly hindus, practicing or otherwise, felt extremely uneasy on the direction discussion was moving towards. Strangely, none of us could defend ourselves. Many questions appeared juvenile. Can you really argue with a child on higher philosophy? A few moved away. Another muslim gentleman was sitting inside his vehicle nearby. He was getting visibly upset and angry. But he kept quiet. After some more needling, when none of us took the bait, the topic changed to what should we get for lunch when children come out after exam. 

Was this gentleman, whom I met on the summer morning, a follower of Dr. Zakir Naik. I do not know. This man was friendly and polite on social issues but extremely dogged in proving supremacy of his faith. Later I read Dr. Naik uses similar analogies in his lecture. Dr. Naik urges muslims not eat prasad unless it is proven Ganesha, elephant headed god, is actually a god. I had a colleague. He practiced Islam. He was a doctorate from the US. In office, he would not eat sweet offered in Diwali puja. It is emerging that Dr. Naik has hundred million followers. Whatever he says carry weight amongst a section of population.  I think, I had the opportunity to meet at least two of them. Intelligence agencies claim, terrorists that attacked Best Bakery eating joint in Dhaka were influenced by teachings and preachings of Dr. Zakir Naik.  Some young followers of Zakir Naik decided to join ISIS to fight non believers.

Several governments including UK, Canada, Malaysia and more recently India and Bangladesh have banned Peace TV telecast. Indian government has banned Zakir Naik's organisation from receiving foreign fund. Law ministry of government of India is thinking banning Zakir Naik's organisation altogether. Dr. Naik thinks banning his organisation will be anti-democratic. A man who does not believe in secularism, a man who preaches a version of Islam that if came to power would enforce sharia law, strangely taking refuge behind principles of democracy. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mother Teresa and Indian Tradition of Charity


Mother Teresa has been declared a saint. Whole of Kolkata celebrated. India also felt happy. Mother has worked selflessly treating poor, destitute and helpless. She has picked up sick from the roadside and treated them. Mother has many admirers and a few critics. Mother has never cared for either praise or abuse. Her motive was to work for the poor and serve god. She did that diligently. 

Mother has put India and Kolkata on the world consciousness. Albeit, as a hopeless hellhole.  Original denizens of Bengal, basked in reflected glory but did very little to solve the problem of poverty, disease and diability. In the process of eulogising work of mother, it also often comes up how rich Indians do not have a tradition of charity. It may be true many billionaires in the west have made significant and public donation to causes of humanity. India has recently adopted western style democracy. Till very recently, India used to be extremely poor country. Although with economic reform poverty is getting reduced, India still has a very large number of very poor people. In this context, probably we see and cling to wealth more compared to our western counterparts.

Still as the charitable work goes, can we really forget about Rama Krishna Mission, Bharat Sevashrama, ISKON, Saibaba, Isha Foundation, Amritha Foundation, Radha Soami sect along with many others? Many of these organisations do enormous body of work without coming into limelight. Many provide primary education,  treat sick free of cost, feed hungry men, women and children, provide disaster relief. Akshay Patra foundation feeds one million children everyday as part of mid day meal scheme. Many organisations do not have deep financial support base of missionaries of charity. Indians themselves being poor  cannot support organisations that help them. 

India has adopted Western style democracy only sixty years before. Earlier education, healthcare, and taking care of poor and the needy used to come under domain of local rulers - kings, nawabs, zamindars etc. Around a place of religious significance, a temple or a mosque, there will be school / pathshala, charitable dispensary, and mid day meal program. Money for these activities used to come from royal treasury. Yes system has degenerated as India goes through transition, but practice of charity was ingrained in Indian ethos. Sikh gurdwaras still run langar daily to feed the hungry without any discrimination. A tradition continuing since creation of the panth.

Finally, mother was cannonised not for her selfless charity. She was declared a saint for performing miracles. When miracles are performed by Sai Baba, India rationalists attack him as a fraud.  When mother is claimed to have performed miracle, we go ga ga and rejoice her sainthood. Track record of Sai Baba for running philanthropic work is no less commendable.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Stalker must be Severely Punished

Among many different crimes committed against women, one is stalking. Many Indian men cannot accept rejection by a woman. Men follow the woman. If she talks to another man, he feels jealous. Sometime this jealousy manifests itself as anger. In a fit of rage, a man may resort to violent acts. 


  • In Hisar, Haryana, two girls were killed in an university campus within a span of few months. Both girls had rejected friendship / marriage proposals of their suitors. Unable to bear rejection, boys, both students of the same university, had hacked girls to death in full public view.  



  • In another stance, another boy also from Haryana had thrown acid on a girls face. Girl had rejected marriage proposal to pursue her professional career. Boy followed the girl all the way from Delhi to Mumbai. At Bandra station he poured acid on the girl. Girl died a few days later. Court has found the boy guilty of murder. I hope he gets death penalty or locked up for life in jail. 
  • An employee of IT firm Infosys was killed in a railway station in Chennai. Assault was carried out by a friend. Girl had rejected marriage proposal of the boy.


In this context, I would like to talk about a tele serial  I watch  "Kuch Rang Pyaar Ke Aise Bhi". In the serial a protective mother breaks relation between lead male and female characters. The male lead looks into Facebook page of heroine. Hero waits outside heroines house and watches her talking to her new boy friend. Hero manages to scuttle sanctioned loan of heroines new fiancĂ©e. All these keep us glued to the show. Come to think of it, is this not stalking? Actually heroine justifies the act in one episode. "Poor thing does not have any friend. Whatever he is doing, he doing out of love for me" proclaims heroine. 

We hear horror stories how men kill women for refusing their proposal of friendship and marriage. There are innumerable cases that go unreported of regular harassment that women face in this country. Girls are followed, groped, raped. Lewd comments are no longer made on roadside alone, nowadays obscene comments/photos/videos can be circulated through social media. It can be extremely traumatic to know that someone is being followed in physical and/or in cyber space.  

TV serials and movies that show stalking, teasing and harassment send a bad signal. Boys get a message that it is alright to stalk and tease. If done for long enough time, girl may actually give in. Signal also goes that girls actually like being stalked, and feel sympathy for the jilted lover. All programs showing stalking must send a clear message that stalking is harassment. Strict punishment  must be meted to stalkers. Laws on stalking must be enforced stringently. implementation remains poor. I think message should go that stalking is illegal and strict punishment awaits stalkers.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Rio Olympic Games, Learn Lessons Plan Better

More than fifteen days have passed since Rio Olympic games. Athletes are back. So are sports managers. Country has celebrated our tally of two medals, one silver and one bronze. Anyone who had dared to question two medals from a country with 1200 million plus people, have been duly trashed and thrashed.   Medal winners were showered with cash and gifts and sponsorships. One political leader even assured nation that coach of silver winning athlete will be changed for a better one so that we get a gold in next olympic games. This explains our mindset. There is no long term planning. There is no intent to create infrastructure. There is no support for budding sports persons. There is no backup support when sports is over. We simply believe in showering winners with cash, rewards and awards.

A lot has been said about how our sports administrators have failed us. There is no doubt that, barring BCCI,  managers of other sports are not people of great vision. Many are there for the perks of the post, that enables them free travel to foreign countries among other things. How can we condone our marathon runner not having access to drinks every 2 km of gruelling 42 km run? It came to light the night before the run, sports managers were told by athletes that they do not need drink at regular interval. I fail to understand, instead of asking the athletes should Indian manager have not made drinks available at designated places irrespective of athletes using it or not? Every other country did. Only Indian stall was empty. May be officer in charge was too tired from party the night before, he could not get up early for the marathon. But this is India. This is how officials behave. We have to make do with what we have. No officer can be fired, it may be against human rights violation. 

Finally, there may be hope. Prime Minister has proposed creation of a twelve year task force for olympic games, keeping in mind coming three olympic games. I read in news papers, that emphasis will be paid on badminton and shooting as top sports. This is great. It seems someone is thinking. If we had paid attention after London games, we may have at least equalled the tally of last olympics or bettered it.  UK that has come second in gold medal tally in Rio games from 36th in Atlanta Olympic games. UK had adopted a strategy of funding potential winners by concentrating on fewer disciplines.  For olympic games England had spent around 350 million dollars. Some calculation say it is roughly 7 million dollars per medal. Definitely, India cannot spend that kind of money. There will be protest and shout of discrimination if we concentrate on fewer sports. Still we can improve our tally to 15 - 20 medals in Tokyo games, if we plan properly. However, if Modi is not there as PM, the whole plan may be overturned on the charge of nepotism and nationalism. This is India. Hope for the best, expect the worst.